Thursday, August 27, 2015

McCarthy Beach State Park: August 15th, 2015

Sixty-three Minnesota State Park Hiking Club Trails down, four to go.

Joe and I took a long weekend to drive up to Grand Rapids and visit three of the remaining four State Parks: McCarthy Beach, Scenic, and Schoolcraft.  We decided that it was high time we tried staying in a hotel with Thunderdog, so she joined us on this trip!

Our first park of the weekend was McCarthy Beach State Park.  McCarthy Beach is about 15 miles north of Hibbing, and it is definitely in the Northwoods.  Its two main lakes are Sturgeon Lake and Side Lake, and the park is surrounded on all sides by State Forest land.  Someday we'll be back to explore the Sturgeon River State Forest and the George Washington State Forest - and maybe the Taconite State Trail, which goes through the park.

As per usual, we stopped at the Ranger Station to pick up a map.  People, it is IMPERATIVE that, if you are going to McCarthy Beach to do the Hiking Club Trail, you MUST stop at the Ranger Station.  Otherwise you will never find the trailhead.  The trailhead road is hard to find to begin with, and it's a minimum maintenance road.

"The trailhead road is impassible right now," the Ranger told us.  "You'll have to go out of the park, five miles up on County Rd 5, and then park at the ski lot and hike in to the trailhead."  She drew us a map.  It wasn't hard to find, but we never would have known where to go if she hadn't given us instructions.  The ski lot was empty and we wound up hiking about a mile until we found the Hiking Club Trail.

Lots of info for skiers, none for hikers.  

This was an awesome, fantastic, great hike.  It started out on a thin footpath that edged along the shore of Side Lake.  It was a warm day and the air was filled with my favorite aroma: hot pine.  There's something about the way pine trees smell in mid-summer...and in mid-winter too, I guess.  But although I can find "winter pine" scented candles and even bring branches into the house for that fresh scent, I have never found anything artificial that matches the smell of hot pine needles.  You can only find it in places and times like this.

Thunderdog and I on the trail

It is a 3 mile hike, and it was fairly hilly.  We noticed how easily we took those hills, now that we're jogging a few times a week!  Apparently it really makes a difference. :-)  The trail stretched out into a wide path at some point, but it didn't lose the northwoods feel.  Lucy was beside herself with glee at going for a Big Walk in the forest.

Hi guys!  I'm in the woods!

I cannot recommend McCarthy Beach enough.  The hiking was great, and that's not even the star of this park.  McCarthy Beach has one of the best swimming beaches in the country, excellent fishing, snowmobiling on the Taconite Trail, mountain biking, skiing, horseback riding, and camping.  This is a northwoods gem and I definitely want to come back.

Pickerel Lake

And, of course, what would a northwoods experience be without listening to loon calls in the distance?  What a treat.

Total miles hiked today: 3 miles
Total miles hiked in 2015: 35.5
Total ticks today: Joe - 0; Elly - 0; Thunderdog - 0
Total ticks in 2015: 9

Countdown to All Miles: 8.2 to go

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